Portland State Threat to Block Faculty Email Broke Oregon Law, Board Says

When Portland State University threatened last year to shut down unionized faculty members’ access to their email if they went out on strike, the university broke Oregon law, the state’s Employment Relations Board ruled last week, according to The Oregonian. The board, which said the threat interfered with faculty members’ exercise of their right to unionize, ordered the university to never again make such a threat and to inform faculty members of the ruling. A strike never happened, as the university and the union reached a tentative agreement on a contract.

The university’s 2014 announcement said “electronic log-in credentials for striking employees will be disabled during a strike, preventing access to email” and other electronic systems.

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Champlain College to Offer Online Programs to Federal Workers, at a Discount

Champlain College and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced on Monday that they had teamed up to offer the Vermont college’s online programs to the federal government’s more than two million workers. Under the partnership, federal workers, their spouses, and their adult dependents will be able to take Champlain courses at a 70-percent tuition discount. The college offers more than 60 online-degree programs toward certificates, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees in “high-growth, in-demand, and mission-critical fields.” The new program resembles one, announced last year, that involves the University of Maryland University College.

“Champlain College takes a distinct approach to adult online education, forming alliances with enterprises to break down the wall between academia and industry, and providing students with critical knowledge and skills that are directly transferable from the classroom to the office,” said Jayson Boyers, vice president of Champlain College.

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Cost of College Ratings? For Education Dept., at Least $4 Million

The U.S. Education Department has budgeted more than $4 million to build its controversial college-ratings system, Inside Higher Ed reports. The department’s contract with RTI International shows that it has already paid the company at least $1.8 million to construct a website and test ratings models. The contract also shows that the system might allow colleges to annotate or provide context to their evaluations.

The road from President Obama’s 2013 announcement of the system has been a long slo…


Northwest Nazarene U. Puts Layoffs on Hold After Faculty Protest

Northwest Nazarene University, a Christian institution in Idaho, has put on hold a plan to lay off six employees, including a popular professor of theology whose pending removal had prompted protests and a faculty vote of no confidence in the university’s president, the Idaho Statesman reports.

The professor, Thomas Jay Oord, and the other affected faculty and staff members had been expected to leave Northwest Nazarene at the end of the academic year, as part of budget shifts announced by the u…


Female Faculty in UCLA Center Faced Hostile Workplace, Inquiry Finds

Female faculty members at the University of California at Los Angeles medical school’s research center on Alzheimer’s disease worked in “a climate of conflict, tension, hostility, and mistrust” and faced “unprofessional, demeaning” treatment, reports the Los Angeles Times, citing a letter that describes the results of an external investigation. The letter, from Jonathan Hiatt, vice dean for faculty, said the inquiry had confirmed complaints filed by three women, who said their treatment was retaliation for reporting violations of research protocols. The Times could not reach Mr. Hiatt for comment. The letter did not identify the women or the men found to have discriminated against them, and did not indicate whether anyone had been disciplined as a result of the findings.

In the letter, Hiatt wrote that he brought in an external investigator to look into the complaints, interview current and former faculty and review documents. The resulting report was finished in October and declared that the women faculty “had correctly identified and documented the unprofessional behavior to which they had been subjected” and had brought their complaints to the attention of administrators numerous times without a proper response, he said.

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Business School That Chased Rankings Ran Up a Deficit, Audit Finds

The University of Missouri at Kansas City allowed its business school to run up an operating deficit of nearly $11 million as it pursued a national and global reputation, since tarnished by a rankings scandal, The Kansas City Star reports.

The link between the deficit and that bid for greater status is the conclusion of a new audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers that focused on financial issues at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. The report comes on the heels of an earlier audit requested by Gov. Jay Nixon after a Kansas City Star investigation reported that faculty members had submitted false data to get top rankings for the school’s entrepreneurship program.

The new audit shows the Bloch school’s operating shortfall increased from $1.5 million in 2009 to $10.6 million in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2014. The school’s total revenue in 2014 was $19.4 million.

The Bloch School has been able to balance its budget each year by dipping into the university’s reserve fund, UMKC spokeswoman Stacy Downs said. The $10.6 million eventually will be repaid from the school’s revenue, she said.Efforts to boost the Bloch School of Management’s reputation cost more than revenues brought in, the auditors say. Now the school has to repay the $10.6 million borrowed from UMKC reserves. In addition to raising concerns about the deficit, the new report calls for better internal controls over travel and expense budgets, among other issues.

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A College’s High Ranking Often Means Less Time With Professors

Report: “Revisiting the Relationship Between Institutional Rank and Student Engagement”

Authors: John D. Zilvinskis, research project associate, and Louis Rocconi, assistant scientist, both at Indiana University at Bloomington’s Center for Postsecondary Research

Summary: The researchers sought to determine what, if any, relationship existed between student engagement at any given college and how highly that institution was ranked by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, or Washington Monthly. Their …


U. of Wisconsin Flagship Will Cut 400 Positions in Response to Budget Cuts

The University of Wisconsin at Madison will cut 400 positions, merge or close academic programs, and reduce support programs in response to anticipated state budget cuts, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The announcement, from the flagship’s chancellor, Rebecca M. Blank, is the latest development in a battle over funds between the university system and the state government.

“I want to emphasize that these changes, as difficult as they are, cannot and will not stop with this year’s budget,”…


U. of Missouri Chancellor Is Criticized as Slow to Respond to Anti-Semitic Graffiti

Sixteen national organizations wrote to the chancellor of the University of Missouri at Columbia, R. Bowen Loftin, on Thursday to express their concern about the safety of the institution’s Jewish students after anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on the campus last week. The Missourian reports the groups also took aim at Mr. Loftin for not responding to the graffiti until several days after its appearance, “causing some Jewish students to feel marginalized and ignored.”

On April 9, a swastika, an Il…


Tenure, Not Hiring, Is Chief Bottleneck to STEM Faculty Diversification

Report: “Faculty Hiring and Tenure by Sex and Race: New Evidence From a National Survey”

Authors: Mark R. Connolly, associate research scientist, and the assistant researchers You-Geon Lee and Julia N. Savoy, all at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research

Summary: The researchers examined the career trajectories of people with doctorates in the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — and related fields to try to determin…